April 5, 2016

A Good Way To Solve Problems

By Paul Bieber

Many years ago, our daughter, Jessica, asked me what I did for work at Floral Glass, which at the time was the leading fabricator in the New York City area. I thought about it for a minute, and I told her my main job was making decisions. Jessica was four at the time, and she didn’t understand how making decisions helped making glass.

But that is exactly what I did. We had about 250 employees, and that alone could have driven my mind crazy. Add 2,000 customers, a fleet of 20 trucks… well, you get it.

So this what I did, and hopefully, this will help you too. I created a chart of problems based on the effort needed to correctly solve the issue, as well as the cost to solve the issue.

                                     Small $                   Medium $$             Large $$$     

Easy  X    XX                XXX
Medium  XX    XX   XXX
Hard  XX   XXX   XXX

Every problem would fit into one of nine boxes. If the problem was easy to solve and didn’t cost a lot of money, it would be a green problem, to be taken care of right away. A yellow problem would take more effort and cost more. I would do a little investigation, discuss with a couple of people, and figure out the cost to solve. And then comes the red problems—hard to do, and a mistake here would have significant impact on the bottom line. This kind of problem might take two weeks to answer after significant research and a conference with the financial side of the business.

When a problem came up, I would immediately, in my mind, see where the X’s fall and either give an answer right then, or be able to tell the questioner when an answer would be ready for discussion.

Let’s say a good employee comes to you and wants to discuss a raise. This is a medium effort and a medium cost. So, ask him to come back in three days at the end of his shift. This will give you some time to talk to various supervisors, or maybe just one. The think point here is when others hear about his raise, they will come to you, as well. In that case, it would be a significant amount of money. So, effort is medium and cost is high. Now you have this correctly placed in your mind.

The cost categories need to fit your company. A five-man glass company may set the categories very low, while in a company like mine, anything less than $500 was considered small.

Try this for a couple of days, and you will get the hang of it. It can and should become second nature. When this does happen, you will be running a smoother company with fewer problems lingering.

Good luck.